A truly “social” experiment

The other day I made a comment to a friend that I couldn’t remember the last time I handwrote a note, a letter or something more than a few words or numbers long. This thought was spawned by a Facebook friend’s New Year’s resolution to write a handwritten note to one person every day for the next 365 days. What a beautiful idea, I thought. It is so personal and connected. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate of social media and its benefits, but there are many people as of late worried about the ways in which social media separates us from one another instead of bringing us together.

There has been a trend of various “isolation experiments” lately to demonstrate concerns about social media. Some are utilizing social media as their only form of communication while others are giving it up completely to prove a point about its role in our lives. Regardless, the conclusion of all of the experiments I have found is that social media has too great of an influence in people’s lives.

Two Portland, Ore. artists recently completed the Public Isolation Project, an “analogy of the contemporary experience living in the internet age.” Cristin Norine lived on a busy Portland street corner for one month in an art gallery. Her every move on display through the gallery windows, but her only contact to the outside world was through social media. Since ending the project on Dec. 7, Norine has taken a hiatus from computers and all things social networking according to her blog. She said she has a new appreciation for fresh air and has a better attention span not having to divide her attention between several forms of communication.

Students a Shoreline High School gave up social media altogether and embraced the ways of another time – 1995. The 600+ teens took part in an experiment suggested by Trent Mitchell, the school’s video production teacher, after he saw the box office hit “The Social Network.” The weeklong task required students to abandon texting, email, Facebook and Twitter. Similarly, students at a Harrisburg University of Science and Technology reported feeling more able to concentrate and less stressed after participating in a social media blackout. Although the Provost recognized the results were not official because of the small size of the student body, he said “this is fertile ground for research.”

Although I am skeptical about the scientific accuracy of this research, I have decided to take it into consideration. Recent reports show a downward trend in the use of the U.S. Postal Service and other snail mail senders throughout the world. Even sending Christmas cards is becoming an anomaly. My estimate is that many people (myself included) forget to find balance in their lives and overindulge in social media for their soul form of communication.

So, after much thought, I have decided to take on my own experiment. Like my friend I will write at least one handwritten note every day beginning Jan. 1. However, throughout the experiment I will continue to engage in social media just as I have been. I will also keep a blog sharing notes and letters that I have sent and received. The blog will serve as a forum to compare and contrast the differences in connection between either forms of communication – handwritten or digital.

To ensure that I am growing from this experience and allowing myself the opportunity to connect through handwritten communication just as I would through social media, I will invite my social network to write me letters, notes, postcards etc. My hope is to respond to those who write me and to find the point of personal connection in both social media and handwritten communication. Visit http://www.thelettersocial.com to track my experience beginning Jan. 1.



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2 responses to “A truly “social” experiment

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  2. Pingback: Come on, ride the train. | the letter social

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